What Does it Mean to be a Citizen?
There are several definitions of citizen so I thought we would look at each one.
1. an inhabitant of a city or town; especially: one entitled to the rights and privileges of a freeman
We are all inhabitants of a city or town. In the 1700s when our country was just starting to grow - they were like adolescents, stretching and wondering what their limitations were. They lived in this great country, separate from England. Many of them had come here specifically to find freedom. They came to start a new life for their families. Some even came here because they were forced to leave their homes. According to the Declaration of Independence, every man is entitled to freedom and the rights and privileges that go along with it.
2. a member of a state.
Right now as we look at our country, we are all members of a state. Whether it is Delaware, Georgia, Virginia, or even Illinois where I am from, we are all members of a state. The best part is each state is part of a larger unit - the United States of America. Just in that phrase alone we can see our committee to being joined together and yet acknowledgement of our different parts - the states.
2. a native or naturalized person who owes allegiance to a government and is entitled to its protection.
Here we can see that a citizen also includes people who are natives, or people born here. What does this mean today? This means anyone who was born in the United States is considered a citizen. The second part includes a naturalized person. A naturalized person does not have to be born here, but they have chosen to be a citizen of this country. This means you may have been born in Spain, France, Mexico, Poland, or any other country, but once arrived in the United States, you decided to become a citizen. This also means you studied about this country and took a special test to become a US citizen. As citizens, you are entitled to be protected by this country's rules and its military force. If someone should invade the US, you expect the government to protect you. If you join the armed forces, you expect other members to help protect you while you are protecting our country and other countries.
3. a civilian as distinguished from a specialized servant of the state.
A civilian would be a person who is not in the military. This means they are not assigned the job of protecting our country, but are entitled to its protection. Police officers, national guards, soldiers, etc are all trained to protect the civilians.
Okay, so let's get to the point - what does it mean to be a citizen?
I thought about this a lot because even after reading the definitions I thought about my ancestor, Richard Stockton from New Jersey, who signed the Declaration of Independence. Here was a man with great power at the time of the revolution. A man who could have easily become a loyalist and joined forces with King George but did not. He was even imprisoned for his belief that all men were created equal. Richard Stockton got sick while being imprisoned and was never quite healthy again and yet he continued to believe in independence for all men, not just men who followed King George.
When our great country was being settled all those hundreds of years ago, the men and women who came here and worked the land came here for freedom! They came here to escape persecution. They came because they believed in themselves and the right to make a decent living. This is what a citizen believes in. But by the same token, a citizen doesn't just believe he is entitled to these freedoms, he believes enough to fight for them. Even now, over 500 years later, men and women are fighting all across this world for freedom. They believe we all deserve to be free. Not just the people in the USA, but people all across the world.
Without this freedom, we would be able to vote for people to represent our ideas. If not for people like Richard Stockton, we would not have separate states and people who represented those states in Congress. We would not be able to decide what job we wanted. We would not be able to vote for changes in laws that we find unconstitutional. We could not vote people out of office who do not fight for us. We also must agree to pay soldiers and police officers who protect us from harm. None of this would be possible if we were still citizens of a king who refused to listen to our protests. King George punished those who disapproved of his actions or spoke out against his actions. As citizens of the USA, we can vote a person like that out of office.
We have rights and privileges. That is what being a citizen is all about. Not only that, but do not have to be afraid to speak out loud what we want and fight for it.